One day, one epic match: Nadal - Burgsmüller (1st round 2005)

 - Danielle Rossingh

Relive Rafael Nadal's first match at Roland Garros 2005

Rafael Nadal during his first round at Roland-Garros 2005©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT invites you to experience the 2020 tournament on the original dates by looking back at some of the most memorable matches from the past, round by round. Today, Monday 25 May, we go back to the start of the reign of the “King of Clay” in Paris: Rafael Nadal’s first-round victory over Lars Burgsmüller in 2005.

The context

Although Rafael Nadal was still a teenager, his reputation as a clay-court slayer had already preceded him by the time he walked through the gates of Roland-Garros for the first time in 2005. Just 10 days shy of his 19th birthday, the Spaniard entered his first French Open tournament as the world No. 5 after victories on the clay courts of Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome.

No wonder Burgsmüller, a 29-year-old German ranked No. 96, wasn’t pleased when he saw the draw. "I remember that I was a little sad about the draw," Burgsmüller told USA Today in 2015. "I knew that he was going to be a tough player for me,” said the German, who became a doctor after retiring from tennis. “Everyone was talking about him. He had good form. He was on the way up. Everyone knew that he would be very, very good."

Rafael Nadal during his first round against Burgsmüller at Roland-Garros 2005©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

The match

Sporting dark brown locks of long flowing hair, held together in a white bandana, and dressed in three-quarter length capri trousers, with a sleeveless green top that showed off his bulging biceps, the Spaniard was all business from the start. He won his first ever point on the old Court No 1 with a smash, having outplayed his opponent with what would become his trademark service-forehand combination. Although the German put up a good fight in the second set, Nadal was always in control and moved into the second round with an emphatic 6-1, 7-6, 6-1 win in one hour, 45 minutes.

What they said

Although he had booked a seemingly easy victory, the Spanish perfectionist was far from satisfied and downplayed his title chances. “How could I be?,” Nadal said, after being asked if he was happy with his win. “My game was so full of approximations and hesitations. In any case, after a match like that, I can’t be considered one of the tournament favourites.

But Toni Nadal, his uncle and his coach since he was four years old, had a different opinion. "We wanted to win," he told USA Today in 2015. "If you ask me before the beginning of the tournament (that year), 'Do you want (Rafael) to make the final?' No. I wanted him to win. I believed that. Rafael was the best player on clay in that moment."

Match stats

Nadal defeated Burgsmüller without facing a single break point on his serve.

What happened next ?

The rest, as they say, is history. After his defeat of Burgsmüller, Nadal dispatched Belgium’s Xavier Malisse, fellow teen prodigy Richard Gasquet and Sebastien Grosjean, both from France, and fellow Spaniard David Ferrer with the loss of just one set. A real test came in the semi-finals against world No 1 Roger Federer. The pair were one-all in their previous meetings but had never met on clay. In the end, Nadal prevailed over the Swiss in four sets. In the final, a four-set defeat of Argentina’s Mariano Puerta turned the swashbuckling Mallorcan into an international sporting superstar.

Nadal’s victory at Roland-Garros in 2005 turned out to be the beginning of a dynasty. Fifteen years on, he has played 95 matches on the Parisian clay, won 93, and collected an astonishing 12 championship titles. It’s an extraordinary achievement that is unlikely to be repeated anytime soon.

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